Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He also reviews books and movies for NPR.org and is a contributor to NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See, where he posts weekly about comics and comics culture.

Over the course of his career, he has spent time as a theater critic, a science writer, an oral historian, a writing teacher, a bookstore clerk, a PR flack, a seriously terrible marine biologist and a slightly better-than-average competitive swimmer.

Weldon is the author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, a cultural history of the iconic character. His fiction and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, Story, McSweeney's, The Dallas Morning News, Washington City Paper and many other publications. He is the recipient of an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship and a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction.

Disenchantment, Matt Groening's new animated series that hits Netflix on Friday, August 17th, does for our mythical past what Futurama did for our imagined future, but it does so in a manner so closely reminiscent of that other show's wryly cynical sci-fi hi-jinks that it could have just as easily been called Pastarama, if that didn't sound quite so much like a seasonal promotion at Olive Garden.

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There are a bunch of historical anniversaries in August. The Watts riots happened 53 years ago. Woodstock was 49 years ago today in fact. And then there's the 46th anniversary of Wattstax.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

In a letter to its members sent this morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) listed three changes approved by its Board of Governors.

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

OK, look. I don't want to waste your time. It's hot, it's muggy and the news is an ever-widening gyre of flaming airborne chili-festival Porta Potties. So how about we forgo a review that seeks to advance any cool, objective argument on the relative cinematic worth of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the sequel to the 2008 film adaption of the longest-running jukebox musical in Broadway history? How about, in the interest of efficiency, I just answer the questions I know you to have about the film — because I had them, too — in order of importance?

"Six feet of rugged manhood to stir the heart of every woman."

That's how one of his early movie trailers described Tab Hunter, the blue-eyed, blond-haired actor and recording artist possessed of a facial symmetry and bone structure so conventionally handsome they seemed preternatural. He died Sunday.

It's fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015's feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

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Ken Jennings — yep, you got it: affable Jeopardy! champ/trivia doyen/comedy-adjacent media personality, that Ken Jennings — is worried.

Worried, not panicked. Not even distressed, really. No, what his book Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over our Culture amounts to, really, is an extended, engaging, deeply knowledgeable, 275-page-long (312, if you count the endnotes) (come on, you knew there'd be endnotes) fret.

Brad Bird's virtuosic 2004 animated movie The Incredibles is the best superhero film that has ever been made and is likely the best superhero film that ever will be made.

This is a fact — a cold, hard one. The massive, resolute, essential truth of this fact is abiding and irresistible and immovable; it possesses its own magnetic field, its own solar day.

This week, with Linda off galavanting around New York, Stephen and I are joined by the great and good Margaret Willison and Chris Klimek to discuss a certain quiet, subdued and exceedingly well-mannered topic that somehow we hadn't yet gotten around to: The Paddington films.

Deadpool 2, like the 2016 film to which it is a sequel, stars Ryan Reynolds as a violent super-mercenary with the the ability to heal himself from any injury. In both films, Reynolds unleashes a logorrheic verbal torrent of meta-references to other movies — so many, so unceasingly, that their net effect is to hammer the fourth wall into a powdery dust.

"This thing you are looking at right now" he essentially says, often, "is like this other thing you have looked at in the past, when you were watching an entirely different film. Nutty, right?"

Not so very long ago, everyone agreed when Summer Movie Season kicked off. There was no subjectivity involved. It was dictated by the calendar: Memorial Day weekend meant the arrival of the big tentpole movies that would proceed to bust blocks over the course of the sultry summer months. Simple.

Nostalgia is a paralytic toxin.

It's killing us slowly, steadily: Every time an old, smarmy sitcom, or a pallid network drama, or a toy ad that masqueraded as a cringeworthy children's cartoon gets dredged from the feculent muck of history's lake bed and rebooted for a contemporary audience, our cultural blood pressure incrementally drops, our collective pulse grows that much threadier, our soft tissues go just a scosh more necrotic. That's because these properties exude nostalgia's deadly poison — they're sticky with it — and there is no antidote.

This post contains extensive spoilers for the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. If you do not wish to be spoiled, read no further.

....

I don't trust you.

You're reading this, but you haven't seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, and you don't want to be spoiled. Even though this whole post is about discussing the ending.

...

Avengers: Infinity War is — and truly feels like — the culmination of something.

Call them the Mighty Marvel Movie MacGuffins. They're the glittery objects that drove the plots of several individual Marvel movies and that collectively shaped the direction the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been heading (almost) since its inception.

They are the Infinity Stones — immensely powerful gems that contain and channel elemental forces of the universe. They're what the villains crave and what the heroes protect. They can be used to destroy or create.

Mmmmmostly that first thing.

The original Lost in Space, which ran on network television from 1965 to 1968, began as a straightforward, if high-concept, adventure show: A colony spaceship carrying a nuclear family, a dashing pilot and a sniveling doctor got stranded on a remote planet. They had adventures while wearing v-neck sweaters over their turtlenecks, presumably because Irwin Allen, who produced the show, imagined that the future would be a chilly place. Or maybe he got a deal on velour, who knows.

When the guy with a wicker bucket on his head (who only talks through androgynous android-clones in Tom Selleck mustaches and Beatle wigs) is the least weird thing about your show, that show can safely be called ... distinctive.

Welcome to season two of Legion, FX's not-your-daddy's-mutant-superhero-series, helmed once again by Noah Hawley, between gigs running FX's other stylish, genre-inflected offering, Fargo.

The FX series The Americans has never been a ratings juggernaut, but over the course of five seasons it has earned the unstinting devotion of fans and critics. That's at least partly attributable to its willingness to put its characters, and its audience, through something that's become a hallmark of the era of "Prestige Television": Change.

In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — two Jewish kids from Cleveland who were reading the alarming news coming out of Europe — created precisely the hero necessary to put things right: an impossibly strong and nigh-invulnerable paragon of virtue and butt-kicking they called Superman. He could have ended Hitler's advance with a snap of his fingers — and he definitely would have, if only he weren't a creature of pure fantasy.

Just over a year ago, Netflix announced that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the Bravo network phenomenon of a makeover show that launched in 2003 before fizzling out in 2007, was coming back.

Reaction to this news varied. Some welcomed the idea. Some didn't. And some self-appointed know-it-alls who didn't want to see the show come back went so far as to offer unsolicited advice.

The promotional campaign for American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which premieres Wednesday, January 17, on FX, is all gowns and glamour: The camera lingers over a head of Medusa, the designer's internationally recognized logo. We see flashbulbs, red carpets, bold prints, glasses of champagne.

If they are to successfully make the jump to light speed, Star Wars movies require a precisely calibrated fuel mixture: one-third epic space battles, one-third narrow escapes and duly buckled swashes, one-third hooded beardy dudes standing around looking pained while solemnly intoning the cheesiest hokum about Darkness and Light as if it's Hamlet's Yorick speech (which in a way, it is).

On Monday, Amazon Studios announced it had acquired the rights to bring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings to television. The ink's still wet on the contract, so details are sketchy.

We know only that it will be an ongoing, multi-season series that will "bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien's original writings," according to the press release — and that it will be set before the Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of Tolkien's main LoTR saga.

Near the midpoint of director Dome Karukoski's Tom of Finland, artist Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) sits on a bench, catching up with the man who was once his superior officer when they served in the Finnish army during World War II, years before.

"We've started a motorcycle club," he says. Pauses."Without the motorcycles."

Monty Hall got it.

Hall, who died today at age 96 according to his agent Mark Measures, was in on the joke. He was you, sitting there at home, clucking your tongue at the lengths to which people would go, the extent to which they would abase themselves, just to get picked to compete on a dumb game show.

This year, the 40th anniversary of the opening of Studio 54, a onetime Manhattan nightspot where very good-looking people danced to very good music while snorting very good drugs, has seen the publication of two memoirs by past owners.

Updated 1:25a.m. ET

The 2017 Emmy Awards were broadcast Sunday night on CBS. Below is the list of nominees and winners. (Winners are in bold italics.)

Outstanding comedy series

  • "Atlanta" (FX)
  • "Black-ish" (ABC)
  • "Master of None" (Netflix)
  • "Modern Family" (ABC)
  • "Silicon Valley" (HBO)
  • "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" (Netflix)
  • "Veep" (HBO)

Pop some popcorn, prep the Emmy-themed snacks (For The Crown: Cucumber sandwiches! For The Handmaid's Tale: Gruel! For The Feud: Bette and Joan: Thick slices of ham!

Success is dull; failure is fascinating.

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